It's another election day, albeit a rather low-key off-year one. I'm getting flashbacks to 2008, when it seemed like everything was going to be just fine now.
With Obama our president for the next four years, wouldn't we get the change that we'd be wanting for the past eight? The way things have turned out so far, mostly not.
Nothing Obama has done to date excites me the way his campaign did.
Arianna Huffington nailed this theme in today's "Obama One Year Later: The Audacity of Winning Versus the Timidity of Governing." She made me think, right on, sister!
Indeed, reading the book [by David Plouffe] I often found myself wondering what Candidate Obama would think of President Obama. Would he look at what the White House is doing and say, "that's what I and my supporters worked so hard for?"
How did the candidate who got into the race because he'd decided that "the core leadership had turned rotten" and that "the people were getting hosed" become the president who has decided that the American people can only have as much change as Olympia Snowe will allow?
How did the candidate who told a stadium of supporters in Denver that "the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result" become the president who has surrounded himself with the same old players trying the same old politics, expecting a different result?
Huffington said that she asked Plouffe what happened to the 13 million people on Obama's email list. He replied that its hard to maintain the intensity of the engagement.
Well, I can tell you what usually happens when one of the 13 million, me, gets another of the frequent emails urging me to do something or other (call, write, donate) for some cause or another (health care reform, at the moment).
I delete the message.
The only exception I can remember was right after Obama's speech to the joint session of congress, where he showed some of the energy and passion that marked his campaign. I made a donation to the health care cause after getting a "please help" email.
But otherwise I feel that my wife and I did our bit last year when we worked along with countless other progressives to elect Democrats. Successfully. Now the Dems control the White House and both houses of Congress.
Yet Obama's email machine still wants me to hold house parties about health care reform, to call my Senator and Representative, and send in $25 or more to support TV ads.
Almost always I think, "nope."
The ball's in your court, Obama. When I see you trying as hard to win legislative battles as you fought to be elected president, then I might feel differently.
Like lots of progressives, I'm disappointed that Obama isn't playing the political game as differently as he said he would during the campaign. I like Obama's positions on domestic and foreign policy issues much better than Bush's. But the way he's trying to get his way doesn't seem all that different.
Suck up to special interests. Favor Wall Street over Main Street. Do whatever Israel wants. Assume the United States citizenry is center-right rather than center or center-left.
In Obama's defense, Anna Quindlen reminded me of some realities in her Newsweek piece, "Hope Springs Eternal."
Fom time to time the American people participate in a mass delusion about how their government works. Such a delusion took place exactly a year ago, when a 47-year-old African-American who had once been accorded little chance of prevailing was elected president of the United States.
History will judge Barack Obama over the long haul. But we've learned something in the short term that is simple, obvious, and has less to do with him than with the Founding Fathers. This is a country that often has transformational ambitions but is saddled with an incremental system, a nation built on revolution, then engineered so the revolutionary can rarely take hold.
OK. I get it.
Obama can't snap his fingers and make change happen. He's got to get legislation passed through a Byzantine maze of Congressional committees, power brokers, and massive egos (think Joe Lieberman).
However, tell that to Robert Ellis Gordon, who wrote a terrifically moving guest opinion for the Oregonian editorial page recently, "The Morality of Health Care Reform." Gordon is seriously ill from an autoimmune disease.
What do I know for certain?
That when I took ill in 1989, I discovered what so many other sick people have discovered: Private health insurance companies didn't like me any more. And this was more than mild antipathy. Their behavior led to the inescapable conclusion that for reasons of profit, they wanted me dead and dead soon. To cite one of numerous examples, when my autoimmune disease attacked my blood and I had multiple pulmonary emboli, my private insurer refused to cover the heparin necessary to save my life.
Gordon asks Obama to consider what he is going to feel when he comes to the end of his own life. With the power of the presidency in his hand, did he wield it as effectively as he could for the benefit of humanity?
You are a man who has everything to live for, Mr. President, and I wish you a long and healthy life.
But difficult as this is for me to say to you, that life will one day end.
And if you have forewarning, if you know your death is coming and wish for a peaceful death, you, too, will have to walk the Via Dolorosa, The Way of Sorrow, The Road of Stilettos. And as you look back on your remarkable life, you'll have to scrutinize the actions you took during month 10 of your fledgling presidency. And if you find that you had an opportunity to "get it right" as you put it in that eloquent address, but chose, instead, to sentence tens if not tens upon tens of millions to live and die on the streets?
Speaking to you as citizen to citizen, and (if I may be so bold) as friend to friend, it is incumbent on me to pass this along: Health care is, as you have told us, the most profoundly moral issue of our time. And if you cave -- if you fail this test of personal character -- you may find a peaceful death to be elusive.